I had an eye opening experience a few weeks ago when my partner and I helped a friend by looking after their motel for a few days whilst they were away on holiday. As someone that prides myself on broad stretching experience in the hospitality industry, I must say that I found myself surprised at the differences between running a motel to a hotel style property.

The concept of being on call directly to guests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, was perhaps the area that I hadn’t thought would be so intrusive, particularly considering I’ve always been on call. It struck me half way through my ‘motelier’ experience, that the main difference was that when I was called in my positions at hotels, it was almost always a member of staff ringing – not the guests themselves. I couldn’t help but feel that the guests were waiting for me sit down before coming to ring the reception bell, and sod’s law, it was always the best bit of the film I was watching or right in the middle of dinner. I quickly discovered why my friends had MySky!

The diversity of work also caught me off guard. Whilst I was a General Manager of a hotel, I felt that I was a jack of all trades, helping to jump in the restaurant when needed, covering reception or even stripping beds if need be. What I had never really considered was that other than the food and beverage areas, the diversity of skills and duties was very similar. The only difference being, where in a hotel you have a number of team members to fulfill these roles, in a motel, bluntly, you don’t.

Another significant difference that really struck me was how lonely you can feel. In a hotel environment, there’s always someone around, whether it be a guest or another member of the team. In fact, one of the things that I miss most about working within a hotel is the social aspect of the work environment and role. Other than checking in, perhaps borrowing a DVD or seeking advice of where to visit, I hardly saw the motel guests at all!

After a couple of years of regularly conversing with a number of friends who own motels, as well as providing consultancy to a few too, here are a couple of my top tips to those running a motel style accommodation business;

  • Look into getting a reservation system and channel manager, if you’ve not already got one. With all the things you’ve already got to do, don’t be wasting your time manually checking in to Wotif every time you sell a room. For a very little outlay each month with companies like Seekom, ResBook or Strait PMS, you could be saving yourself a lot of work!
  • Take a day off. Make sure you find someone who can give you a day off every week or a short break regularly. With the amount of hours you work and the constant pressure of being ‘on-call,’ it’s important you give yourself a break. Not just for your sake, but for your guests too – the last thing anyone wants is a tired and grumpy host when on holiday!

I’ve stayed in a number of motels across New Zealand and received amazing service from friendly moteliers, through to the rudest from some of the most un-friendliest. I think you’ve got to be someone quite special to pull of being a good motelier. After just a few days in the shoes of a motelier, I can assure you, it’s really not my calling!

3 thoughts on “I take my hat off to you!

  1. Moteliers will no doubt agree with you James, and will appreciate this video produced by Motella about “high maintenance” guests…


  2. You are so right James!

    New Zealand moteliers are so important to both domestic and international travellers and are often husband and wife teams that cover all aspects of the business. From property maintenance, cleaning, marketing, their accounts, reservations, rate management AND then get interrupted during their dinner to say with a smile, “there already is an extra pillow in your room, it is in the closet on the top shelf”

    Such great advise to suggest using a channel manager – it really is as necessary as a telephone for any accommodation provider now.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. Much appreciated, sorry for taking so long to come back.

    I really do agree how important motels are to the NZ tourism industry.

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